May 12, 2008
Publishing Is Like . . .
The key personnel gathered. “Listen,” said the publisher. “A publisher went out to publish. And as he published, some books fell on deaf ears. And the remaindering houses came and snatched up the excess stock at a fraction of its cost. Other books fell on hard-headed readers where the ideas were not able to root deeply in their minds. So as soon as the readers’ preconceived notions arose, the ideas from the book withered away. Other books fell among a huge glut of other new books and choked out the shelf-space, so the books were not seen. Other books fell into fertile minds and grew there, making a difference in the readers who in turn touched the lives of thirty, sixty or even a hundred other people.”
Later, those who worked with the publisher asked about the story. “Do you not understand?” the publisher replied. “If you don’t understand this aspect of publishing, how will you understand any of it?”
“The publisher publishes books, doing the best possible to find great authors who write great books, giving them the best design and production, providing the most targeted publicity and advertising, working as efficiently as possible with distributors, bookstores and others to get the books out into the hands of the reading public.
“But there is much that the publisher cannot control. Sometimes when a book falls on deaf ears it is because readers just aren’t interested. Sometimes people have their prejudices and, no matter how great the design, you just aren’t going to be able to get past them. Sometimes the competition squeezes out a very good book. And sometimes a book hits its mark, finds the right audience and changes lives, not just entertaining or informing people but making them better people. The reverberations can be felt from that one reader in the lives of dozens or hundreds of others who may have never read the book themselves but who encountered the person who did.
“While a publisher always needs to seek to do the best job possible, those kinds of results are something publishers can’t control. But when it does happen, it is all grace.”